R.I.P. Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park

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Gus, yes that Gus has passed away joining Jim, Janis & Jimi among other entertainers in the "27 Club".

Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park
Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park

Here's an excerpt from the New York Times...

There are not a huge number of ways to become famous as a polar bear. Gus somehow managed to do it by behaving like a perfectly ordinary New Yorker: he was neurotic. He became the Neurotic Polar Bear.

To be sure, it was his own particular neurosis. Back in the mid-1990s, he began swimming obsessively for hours through his watery habitat in the Central Park Zoo, as if prepping for the Polar Bear Olympics, something he had never done back in his hometown, Toledo, Ohio. The world took notice. Expensive therapy was ordered. Improvement occurred. A furry white celebrity was born.

Long the popular face of the zoo, even as his lap swimming became less obsessive, Gus began exhibiting a loss of appetite in recent days. He was having trouble chewing. Zoo veterinarians hoped it might be just a bad toothache. But when they examined him on Tuesday afternoon, they found a large inoperable tumor in his thyroid region and decided to euthanize him.

Gus was 27. (The Association of Zoos and Aquariums puts the median life expectancy for a male polar bear living in a zoo at 20.7 years.) He came to New York in 1988, three years after being born at the zoo in Toledo. His parents, Nanook and Snowball, died in 1996. Nanook was from the Bronx and was sent to Toledo for breeding, with the expectation that a cub would go to New York.

Two years ago, Gus lost Ida, the last of his two female companions. She died from liver disease at the age of 25. His other companion, Lily, died at 17 in 2004 after an abdominal mass was discovered. Despite two women in his life, Gus had no offspring.

“He was the iconic image for Central Park,” said Jim Breheny, the general director for zoos and aquariums for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the city’s zoos. “Some of my favorite images were seeing Gus in his exhibit with the New York cityscape behind him. It was surreal.”

Gus’s death leaves the city with a single polar bear, Tundra, who is 22 and resides at the Bronx Zoo.

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